Enjoying the Simple Pleasures of Life, While Living in a Complicated World

  • WC pears in glaspanfor pear tart
  • soup roasted veggie soup
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  • DessertStrawberryRhubarbPuddingfinal5x7CR_0194

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Asparagus and Bacon Quiche~ A Springtime Treat

Asparagus Bacon Quiche

When asparagus is abundant in the Spring, making this quiche is delightful with fresh, gorgeous layers of flavor. Served with a salad and a nice glass of wine, you’ll have a delicious meal to share with family or friends. I’ve adapted this recipe from a Taste of Home recipe:

Serves 6

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Ingredients

1 unbaked 9″ pastry shell (make your own or buy ready made crust)
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 strips of baked bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 cup grated Swiss cheese, plus more to sprinkle
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
! tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried basil

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Bake bacon in the oven or cook in a skillet. Remove bacon when done and place on paper towels and pat dry. Slice bacon into 1-inch segments, and set aside. Place asparagus pieces in a steamer and steam for 8-10 minutes, remove from steamer and dry on paper towels. (You can also place asparagus in a covered saucepan with an inch of water and simmer until tender crisp.) While the asparagus is steaming, line a 9-inch glass pie pan with a crust; prick sides and bottom with a fork. Bake at 4oo degrees for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl add: eggs, half and half, salt, pepper, Dijon mustard and dried basil. Beat with a whisk until well blended.

Place asparagus spears and bacon pieces on the bottom of the pie curst and sprinkle with 1 cup of swiss cheese. Pour egg mixture over fillings and sprinkle 1/4 cup of swiss cheese over the top. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes and reduce heat to 350. Continue to bake for 20-25 minutes until the surface is lightly golden, or until a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Late Summer Pear Tart

The natural sweetness of pears makes for scrumptious desserts, especially easy to make cobblers and tarts. In my quest to make healthier desserts… this recipe is filled with summer goodness and wholesome ingredients. Fresh ripe pears have so much to offer this time of year. This tart so very easy to make (no crust) and if you don’t have pears on hand, any ripe fruit will do. Enjoy!~ Annie

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Late Summer Pear Tart

Ingredients
4 ripe pears
Batter:
2/3 cup flour
Zest of one lemon
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
3 eggs
4 tablespoons unsalted butter-melted
1/2 cup milk (I use 2%)
Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray a large, glass pie plate (mine: 11.5-inches).
In a large bowl combine: flour, lemon zest, sugar and salt. Whisk together until well-blended.
In a medium sized bowl blend together with a whisk, stirring until well combined:  eggs, butter milk and lemon juice.
Make a well in the dry ingredients. Slowly, add all the wet ingredients: whisking all the while until the batter just comes together and is smooth.

Once you have the batter prepared, core pears and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Place in the bottom of glass pan. Pour the batter over the pears. Bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until it is set in the middle. Let cool, and serve with a dollop of whipped cream. Garnish with a mint sprig. If you can resist temptation… Chill overnight in the refrigerator, and allow the flavors to deepen and blend together. It’s absolutely scrumptious!!

WC Pear tart on blue spode plate

 

Pour the batter over the sliced pears
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Bake until the batter is set in the middle
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It’s irresistible!!

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This is a wonderful confection- perfectly light, lemony and filled with summer goodness.
Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and enjoy! ~ Annie

Almond Pear Tea Bread

It’s mid-September and pears are abundantly available for canning or baking luscious confections to share with family and friends!  I’m partial to making tea breads with seasonal fruit. Here’s a wonderful tea cake using fresh, fragrant and perfectly ripened pears, almonds and cardamon giving this tea bread a lovely depth of flavor.

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Almond Pear Tea Bread
Makes one large loaf.

Ingredients

1 cup freshly pureed ripe pears (2 medium pears-peeled and cored)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Lemon Cardamon Glaze:
In a medium mixing bowl:  With a whisk, combine ingredients and whisk until smooth.
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon butter, softened
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray 9 1/2″ x 5 1/2″ loaf pan. I also like to line the loaf with parchment paper so the loaf doesn’t stick to sides or bottom. Parchment paper also makes it easy to remove the loaf from the pan when it’s finished baking.

In a small bowl:
Combine with a wire whisk: pureed pears, oil, egg, lemon peel and milk. Whisk until well blended.

In a large mixing bowl:
Add: flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cardamon> Stir until all ingredients are well blended. Fold in pear mixture until the dry ingredients are moistened. Gently stir in almonds. Spoon dough into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 55-60 minutes, until the loaf tests done with a cake tester. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack. If you’re using parchment paper, allow the loaf to cool about 10 minutes before removing.

While the loaf is baking, make the glaze and set it aside. When the cake has cooled, drizzle glaze over the top and sides and let it set for about 20 minutes.

This almond pear tea bread is lovely served with tea or coffee, along with sliced fresh pears and a dollop of whipped cream garnished with a sprig of mint.
Enjoy!

Annie’s Roasted Vegetable Soup

This time of year Farmer’s Markets are teeming with fresh vegetables and herbs! Delicious goodness from local sources and finish off this soup with homemade chicken stock, you’re in store for summer goodness in a bowl. Next time you buy a rotisserie chicken, make a flavorful stock from the carcass. Here’s my recipe for Rotisserie Chicken Stock.

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Roasted Vegetable Soup

Ingredients
1 quart of Chicken stock
3- medium red onions, rough chopped
4 large carrots, rough chopped
4 ribs celery, rough chopped
2 parsnips, rough chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
4-6 cups of cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Add all of the vegetables  in a large zip-loc bag and drizzle generously with olive oil. Season with a large pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly, ground pepper. Close bag and smush vegetables until all of the contents are well coated. Open zip-loc bag and empty veggies onto the cookie sheet. Place in the oven for 45-50 minutes. Check the last 10 minutes to be sure vegetables are thoroughly cooked and slightly caramelized. Cool and store in a container until ready to use. This is a great make ahead soup…You can roast the vegetables one day, and make the soup the next!

To Make the Soup
In a blender add a generous portion of vegetables and add chicken broth to begin pureeing mixture. Puree for 20 seconds, and add more vegetables and broth to a desired consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  I like adding 2 tablespoons freshly minced basil from my garden. I also like to use fresh basil or basil flowers as a garnish when serving this fresh garden soup!

Optional seasonings:
1/4 teaspoon ground celery salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin with 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Annie’s Awesome Simple Syrup for Iced Tea

The hot days of August often seem to stretch on for days without relief, and the only beverage that surely will quench a thirst is fresh, brewed iced tea. There’s one addition to creating a deliciously cold glass of tea….herbal simple syrups! They’re easy to make, and if you plant a garden with mint, lemon verbena and other herbs; there’s no end to the variety you can make! You can find more of my recipes for simple syrup…
Mint & Lemon Verbena Simple Syrup
Rose Petal Simple Syrup
Ginger Simple Syrup

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Annie’s Awesome Simple Syrup for Iced Tea


Ingredients

2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup torn, mint leaves
1/2 cup torn, lemon verbena leaves
4 large pieces of candied ginger

Ginger, lemon verbena & mint simple syrup~ perfect for iced tea! It has a nice kick of heat, along with a lemony, refreshing taste of mint. Wonderful for sweetening iced tea, and other beverages.
In a medium saucepan: add 2 cups water & 2 cups sugar. Over medium heat- stir until sugar is completely dissolved.. Allow the syrup become completely clear and reach a gentle simmer.

While syrup is clarifying- Rinse 1/2 cup of torn mint leaves, 1/4 cup torn lemon verbena leaves, dry on a paper towel. Place 4 large pieces of candied ginger in a medium zip-loc bag; pulverize with a rolling pin into small particles.

Once the syrup has reached a simmer, add mint, candied ginger & lemon verbena to syrup. Turn off the heat, and allow the syrup to cool over the next two hours. Strain cooled simple syrup into a jar (I like canning jars) or a bottle. Will keep for a week refrigerated. Use in iced tea or other beverages. Enjoy!

Chicken Salads for Summer

When summer turns on the heat, and you’re in the mood for light, delicious and easy to make meals… chicken salads are idea! Here’s two of my versions for summer. Enjoy!

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Chicken Salad with Blueberries and Coconut

Salad Ingredients
4 cups cooked chicken, cut into cubes (I use rotisserie chicken for salads)
1/2 cups celery, diced
2 cups fresh blueberries
1- 1 1/2 cups dried, flaked coconut (depending on your taste)

Dressing
1 1/2 cup Hellmann’s light mayo
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 cup milk (to thin to desired consistency)
In a medium bow, add all of the ingredients and whisk together until well blended. Cover and chill in refrigerator, until ready to use.

Wash and dry Romaine lettuce, and chill in the refrigerator.  Remove all of the meat from a rotisserie chicken (this will give you enough chicken for several salad recipes) and dice into bite-sized portions.

In a large bowl: add chicken, coconut and celery. With a large spoon, stir until well mixed. Add blueberries, and gently mix together, keeping blueberries whole and intact. Add dressing and gently mix salad.  Serve a generous scoop of salad onto a bed of chilled Romaine lettuce, on a chilled plate. Serve! Makes 4 generous sized salads.

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Chicken Salad with Grapes and Almonds

Salad Ingredients
4 cups cooked, cubed chicken (I use rotisserie chicken for all of my salads)
2 cups green grapes, washed and halved
1 1/2 cups celery, diced
1/2 cup almonds, crushed

Dressing
1 1/2 cup Hellmann’s light mayo
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk (to thin to desired consistency)

 In a medium bow, add all of the ingredients and whisk together until well blended. Cover and chill in refrigerator, until ready to use.

Wash and dry lettuce, and chill in the refrigerator.  Remove all of the meat from a rotisserie chicken (this will give you enough chicken for several salad recipes) and dice into bite-sized portions. If you’re using whole almonds, put them into a zip-lock bag and crush them with a rolling pin.

In a large bowl: add chicken, celery, grapes and almonds. With a large spoon, mix  ingredients together, until well blended.
Add dressing to salad ingredients, and mix together until dressing is coating all of the salad. On a chilled plate: scoop a generous portion of chicken salad onto lettuce or over sliced tomatoes, cut into pinwheels. Serve. Makes 4 generous sized salads.

Salmon Patties with Lemon Basil Mayonnaise

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Salmon Patties with Lemon Basil Mayonaise

Ingredients
1-15 ounce can of salmon
1 1/2 cups Ritz Crackers, finely crushed
2 eggs, beaten and well blended
1 1/2 tablespoon dried shallots, or finely minced purple onion or shallots
1/2 teaspoon minced, fresh basil or 3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon thyme, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Lemon Basil Mayonaise
1 cup of light mayo
2 teaspoons finely grated, lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh, lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon, freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon, finely julienned, fresh basil leaves or 2 teaspoons dried basil

In a bowl add: flaked and deboned salmon, crackers, eggs, shallots/onions, herbs, salt and pepper. Mix together until well blended.
Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
In a large non-stick skillet, over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter.
Remove salmon mixture from refrigerator, and with a large spoon scoop out salmon mixture in generous mounds.
Gently press into large  patties and place in skillet. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until under-crust is brown and golden.
Turn pattie over and cook another 5 minutes.
Remove from pan, and place on toasted buns with lettuce. Serve with Lemon Basil Mayonnaise. Enjoy!

Recipe~ Strawberry Rhubarb Pudding

Strawberries and rhubarb are plentiful this time of year. Since I don’t have time to make pie crust from scratch, and I had an overabundance of strawberries and rhubarb, I created this recipe. Add several day-old croissants, sugars and spices… and you’ve got a delicious dessert.Image

Strawberry Rhubarb Pudding
Ingredients
4-large croissants, cut into cubes or stale bread (about 8-10 cups)
4 cups rhubarb, 1/2-inch dice
3 cups strawberries, quartered
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Crumble Topping
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13-inch pan or a large baking dish. In a large bowl, add eggs, milk, brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla to make the custard mixture. Mix together until well blended. Add croissants. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes, for the croissants to soak up as much of the custard mixture as possible.  Add rhubarb and strawberries and gently mix together, until well blended.

While the croissants are soaking make the topping. In a medium bowl, add butter and brown sugar. Mix together with a fork, until it forms a crumbly mass.

Pour croissant and fruit mixture into a greased, baking dish. Sprinkle crumble topping over mixture, spreading it evenly with a spoon. Bake pudding for 55-65 minutes, until top is golden brown and slightly caramelized. Test for doneness by inserting a knife into the center and it comes out clean. Cool, or serve warm with ice cream, or milk and a dollop of whipped cream. Enjoy!

Recipe~ Red Velvet Cupcakes & Cream Cheese Frosting from Martha Stewart

I was looking for the best red velvet cupcake recipe and after trying many, came to the conclusion Martha Stewart’s recipe is divine! Since I’m from the school, “If it aint broke, don’t fix it”, why experiment with perfection? I shot the picture and debated a very long time whether or not to post the recipe, and came to the conclusion a recipe, is a recipe, is a recipe! Enjoy!

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Martha Stewart’s Red Velvet Cupcakes
Makes 24

2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self- rising), sifted
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon red gel-paste food color
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cake flour, cocoa, and salt.
With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whisk together sugar and oil until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Mix in food color and vanilla.
Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and whisking well after each. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl (it will foam); add mixture to the batter, and mix on medium speed 10 seconds.
Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
To finish, use a small offset spatula to spread cupcakes with frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 pound (4 cups) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Beat butter and cream cheese with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add sugar, 1 cup at a time, and then vanilla; mix until smooth.

Recipe~ Mediterranean Tomato Soup

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This is a wonderful soup that is delicious and full of flavor. It’s also low in fat and cholesterol, and can be made vegetarian by using vegetable broth. 

Mediterranean Tomato Soup
Serves 4

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
28 ounce can whole tomatoes (and basil) with juice
1 large onion, diced (3/4 cup)
2 celery stalks, diced (1/2 cup)
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil or 2 teaspoons fresh basil, julienned
2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable stock)
1 bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground celery seed
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons tomato paste

In a large, dutch oven or large saucepan,over medium heat add 3 tablespoons of olive, onions and celery. Sweat vegetables,  until onions are translucent. Add garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add tomatoes (with a large spoon, break up tomatoes into small pieces), chicken broth, tomato paste, basil leaf, celery seed, basil and oregano. Stir mixture. On low heat, simmer soup mixture for 20-30 minutes. Add baking soda ( soup will slightly foam) and stir soup. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes more, add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat. Puree soup in a food processor. Ladle into bowls with a toasted or grilled slice of garlic french bread topped with melted mozzarella cheese. Enjoy!

Note: I’ve also used this tomato soup over pasta and added freshly, grated Parmesan cheese for a quick and easy lunch. If you prefer cream of tomato soup, add milk or half and half to taste. This is a wonderfully versatile and delicious soup, that is so easy to make!

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